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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE DRESS COLLECTIVE AUSTRALIAN DESIGNER: TIMIALAERE

Unique prints, strong lines and sophisticated silhouettes; these are the defining features of Melbourne based label, TimiAlaere. Founder and Designer, Timi Onduku-Pedley, describes her label as ‘a melting pot of eclectic cross-cultural fusion’, and we couldn’t agree more.

Timi’s designs are influenced by her experiences growing up in Nigeria, and many of the values and skills that she applies to her business today, she learnt as a child. As one of many siblings in a large middle class family, Timi was introduced to duty, discipline, family honour and hard work at a young age, but she grew to appreciate the importance of responsibilities and daily chores. She moved between small towns, big cities and rural villages, and looks back now with only fond memories of Nigeria. “Although there were many expectations of me growing up, which were a pain at times, my childhood was filled with happiness, laughter, dancing and exploring nature.”

Besides the values of respect and fortitude that she learnt as a child, Timi’s parents also instilled a love a fashion. “Both my mum and dad were very fashionable, however the greatest influence was from my mum. She was a Senior Mid-Wife but she had a passion for crafts and for making clothes. She had impeccable taste for quality fashion, and I was particularly obsessed with her 60s lace shift dresses, matching pointy-toe shoes and bags, and her gold jewelry collection.”

With such a fashionable influence in her life, the eventual progression into fashion was inevitable for Timi, but it wasn’t the initial area she studied. Timi’s Aunty was the first lawyer in her father’s village, and she grew up fascinated by the respect her Aunty received. Timi followed suit when she moved to Australia in the early 1990s and studied Law at Charles Darwin University, but juggling a law degree and the birth of her first child was no easy feat, so Timi was forced to scale down her studies and focus on family. With a little more time on her hands, she started to sew her own clothes, and strangers began to stop Timi in the street to compliment her unique designs.  

Timi’s innate desire for a flexible work and life balance cemented the need to run her own label, so she tested the market with a small-run shirt collection first. Timi’s shirt designs were met only with praise, and she found the confidence to officially launch TimiAlaere. “After my last daughter started prep school, I was ready to launch TimiAlaere properly. I was scared to start the label because of the huge financial risk and the hard work required to run the business, but I was excited.”

The first few months for the TimiAlaere label were a mix of emotions for Timi. “I was excited that I was able to launch the label and get some press, but it was tough to find retail stockists, tough to make good sales, and I was stressed about the huge financial cost that I was bearing to fund the label.” This, and the demanding task of raising three children, meant a tough start for Timi.

But in spite of learning how to juggle a young family and a new business, Timi remained determined and she has since learnt to manage the ebbs and flows. “It is still tough at times and it will always be demanding to raise three kids and handle the cost of running a fashion business, but I am much more relaxed now than when I started!”

And Timi wouldn’t have it any other way; she loves what she does and she is passionate about the power of fashion and the ability to give women confidence. She defines the TimiAlaere woman as one who aspires to live their best life and to be themselves, despite the noisy and negative voices of the outside world. “The TimiAlaere woman is an Alaere (which means ‘a woman of substance’) who comes from all walks of life. She is a free spirit who works hard and loves to have fun with fashion, and she is aware of trends but is not dictated by them. She has an eclectic and effortless sense of style.”

It is this strong sense of self and empowering feminist ethos that drives Timi season after season, and for the same reason, her loyal customers continue to return for her flattering and classic pieces. Timi designs each exclusive print in-house on natural breathable fabrics, and each Melbourne-made TimiAlaere collection is limited to ensure a sustainable and ethical manufacturing process.

And although TimiAlere is well and truly on its way to success now, Timi is still learning every day and continues to develop her brand any way she can. Her advice for budding designers and business owners is simple too: “I am no expert at this point as it has still only been three years and I am still learning about the fashion business with each collection. But what I do know, is that passion is a necessity to get through the tough times and the long working hours; being flexible with your business concept and continually tweaking it in-line with your customers and market demands is extremely important; and, being prepared to succeed is just important as being prepared to fail. Being in business is a big risk, but a calculated risk, so learn from your mistakes by not repeating them.”

Timi’s most recent collection has been inspired by her personal lessons to date, and the simple, classy dominion the women of substance in her own life. Despite the hard work Timi puts into her daily routine, she still maintains her beautiful appearance, always seeking a timeless, classy and relaxed sense of style; and her brand is no different. 

Visit The Fashion Advocate for your daily digest of Australian fashion or shop the TimiAlaere collection here.

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